Crystal's mean-spirited 'Saturday Night' comic is nobody's buddy



(New Line, rated R, 1992)

There's sometimes a difference between a fine performance and an enjoyable one. Billy Crystal's portrayal of comic Buddy Young Jr. is a prime example.

Young, a character created by Mr. Crystal for comedy sketches, is like Don Rickles without the sensitivity. He was slightly humorous in small bits, but Mr. Crystal sets out to tell his life story and make him sympathetic. It's a nearly impossible task that Mr. Crystal, as co-writer, director and producer, wasn't up to.

The best effort comes during flashbacks to Young's childhood, when he and his brother, Stan, were developing an amateur act in front of their family. But when it comes time to take their act public, Stan gets cold feet and Buddy goes solo. This sets the stage for a new relationship between the siblings, one in which Stan (David Paymer -- deservedly nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award) becomes Buddy's agent, gofer and primary target of blame and abuse. He also spends most of his career trying to smooth the ruffled feathers of every club owner, television-network executive and film producer that Buddy offends.

But Buddy isn't only insensitive to his brother; he's also verbally and emotionally abusive to his daughter.

Young is as callous in his relationships as Lenny Bruce. But Young isn't as principled, as pioneering, as talented nor as self-destructive as Bruce, and consequently not as fascinating, which is why the film is nowhere close to the quality of of Bob Fosse's "Lenny."

It more closely resembles Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys," with the Stan character an amalgamation of the nephew/agent played by Richard Benjamin and the vaudeville partner played by George Burns. In fact, the aging Young even makes a reference to the movie when auditioning for a film role in the same way Walter Matthau's character did in "The Sunshine Boys."

But again, "Mr. Saturday Night" pales by comparison. It has neither the humor nor the humanity of "The Sunshine Boys."

?3 The video also features outtakes from the film.

VIDEO TIP: Video has picked up the television networks' shameless year-end exploitation of the sensational story of teen-ager Amy Fisher's attempted murder of lover Joey Buttafuoco's wife. All three telefilms are being rushed to video pTC March 31. ABC Video claims to have six minutes of steamy footage shot expressly for video and overseas markets in its ABC version starring Drew Barrymore. Turner Home Entertainment's video of the NBC version starring Ed Marinaro features a 20-minute "exclusive jailhouse interview" with Fisher. Columbia TriStar also claims to have added "footage too steamy for network broadcast" to the CBS version starring Alyssa Milano.


LASER TIP: A special edition of "Rambling Rose" has been released on laserdisc by Pioneer Special Artists.

First, the packaging of the new edition, priced at $74.95, is as elegant as the film. The inside of the cover features brilliant color stills from the film, as does a delicate 24-page booklet that has the feel of a family heirloom. Also included is a letter from director Martha Coolidge.

On the disc itself, Ms. Coolidge offers a short visual introduction and provides a technical running commentary on a second audio channel about the logistics of each camera angle and set and offers anecdotes about the actors (John Heard insisted on putting something behind his ears to make them stick out).

Perhaps most interesting is the portion after the film, during which Ms. Coolidge shows one of several alternate endings that were considered and explains why she agreed with the one selected by test audiences. But she says she was so torn over this decision that she is thrilled to be able to show the public the other ending on this laserdisc. (Martha, you made the right choice).

Also included on the disc are production photographs and detailed background information on costume and set designs and the evolution of the script.

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